Friday, January 31, 2014

Insta-Friday in real life

Happy Friday! In the Toronto area we are now rejoicing over temperatures of -2 to -10 degrees Celsius. It's practically balmy compared to what we have experienced for the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately The Weather Network is telling us we should be "bracing for heavy weekend snow." Awesome.

That being the case, I will continue to focus on indoor pursuits, as I have been for, oh, maybe three months. This week, I took to moving things around the house. We have this little TV that I got as a teen. It's been sitting unused, so I decided to add it to my living room/office. I placed it atop a vintage table that came from my parents. As I said on Instagram, I must be turning into my dad. He held onto all of his vintage televisions for many, many years. You know the kind that look like big pieces of furniture? He even used one as a base for a more modern TV.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Imperfect Environmentalist (Book Review)

I love the title of this book - The Imperfect Environmentalist. Because no matter how good our intentions are, we inevitably fail at achieving some of them. As much as you want to eat healthy food, sometimes you grab a Taco Bell meal on the way home from work. Or maybe you plan on making your own, lovely, pure cleaning products but you just never get around to it.

Talk show host (The Talk), actress, producer, mother and imperfect environmentalist Sara Gilbert (Roseanne's Darlene Conner) offers quick tips for detoxing your life. A vegan mother of two and a graduate of Yale, Gilbert surely knows what it means to be busy. Recognizing that we are all overwhelmed with great ideas, good intentions and too little time, Gilbert shares ideas for small changes that we can make each day that will eventually have a big impact on our environment.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday

Happy What I Ate Wednesday! We are still suffering here in the Greater Toronto Area, with little to no sunshine and extremely cold weather. It's depressing, I admit, but I figure all you can do is treat yourself a little bit. Put the fireplace on, have a cup of tea, read a good book, listen to The Smiths (I like to wallow a bit in my misery) and eat some tasty food.

I definitely did that last bit yesterday. On What I Ate Wednesday, I generally show you my Tuesday day of eats, and I'm going to do that again today, even though it was a day of not particularly healthy eating. I started out well, with a banana-strawberry-orange juice smoothie for breakfast.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Get Something Fun in the Mail (A Wantable Giveaway - CLOSED)

Seeing that we handle much of our correspondence online now, our mailboxes are generally full of bills, aren't they? Wouldn't it be nice to get an exciting package in the mail every month? Wantable is a fun, personalized subscription box service offering three types of boxes: makeup, accessories or intimates. Back in November, I reviewed an intimates box.

I loved getting the box so much I jumped at the chance to try out the accessories box. Each accessories box comes with three to four boutique accessories. Based on my preferences I received the lovely items you see above - the Matilda necklace, Mollie earrings and Roxanna scarf. The earrings are my favourite item - they feature clusters of rose coloured stones with tiny rhinestones for sparkle. The scarf isn't something I'd likely pick out on my own, but I think that's a good thing. I tend to be conservative with my accessories and I like the combo of the animal print with studs. The information sheet accompanying the pieces suggests pairing the scarf with a smoky eye and nude lips to look "fierce."

Friday, January 24, 2014

8 Vegan Foods to Boost Your Energy in Winter

Winter sucks. There, I said it. I'm sure those of you who live in warm climates are saying, "But the snow is so beautiful!" True, but when it's -25 degrees Celsius and the snow makes a spine-chilling crunch under your hefty winter boots every time you take a step, the novelty of snow passes pretty quickly.

We are two months in now and I'm craving sunshine and a bit of warmth (above zero would be fine). A trip to Hawaii not being in the cards, I turned to registered nutritionist Emily Kennedy for advice about beating the winter blues through a vegan diet.

"Vegan or not, many of us feel low in energy and a little grumpy at this time of year," says Emily. "For vegans, consuming warming foods that are rich in essential fats that will help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins (like D) will help you through to the asparagus and sweet peas of spring and summer."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday

I didn't take that many food photos this week, so I'm just going to dive into my Tuesday day of eats. I went to the grocery store early in the morning. By the time I came home I just had enough time to throw the ingredients for a soup in the slow cooker before a scheduled phone interview at 10:00.

Which means I didn't eat until 11:00. By then I figured a full breakfast would be a waste, so I sliced up an apple and a Cara cara orange to munch on while waiting for lunch to cook.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The bibliophile's guide to organizing books

I was chatting with Project Little Smith's Lilly on Instagram the other day. She was making an effort to organize her large collection of books. That got me thinking (as I frequently do) about how to best organize my own books in order to both enjoy them and keep a tidy home. (Can it be done?)

We have books everywhere in this house - piled on both sides of our bed in the master bedroom, on bookshelves and in drawers in the kids' rooms, on bookshelves in the basement, living room and family room and in boxes in the basement. Don't get me wrong, I love having books all around us, but I would like to get up the courage to toss a few and organize the remaining ones better.

Friday, January 17, 2014

5 Healthy Vegan Smoothies

With the focus clearly on healthy living at this time of year, I thought I'd review some of my personal favourite smoothie recipes from Woman in Real Life's archives. As you know, smoothies are a quick, healthy option for busy mornings, afternoon snacks and even post-dinner treats.

Smoothies are great for kids and adults alike, because you can sneak in veggies and then sweeten them up with fruit. Some of these smoothies are straight out sweet and delicious, while others are higher on the healthy quotient with added greens but enough fruit that they are still quite tasty. Click on the titles for the recipes.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Start Something New for 2014

January being prime time for self-improvement, many of us naturally gravitate towards learning something new. Maybe we start a fun new hobby or enhance some existing skills. Whatever it is you want to do, I'll bet there's a book to help you do it.

With that in mind, DK Canada has created a Start Something New Boutique, which includes a range of books on a fascinating array of topics, all at 30 percent off the regular price.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday

Yesterday morning when I took Jolene to the park, the entire park was covered in snow topped with a layer of ice. I slipped and fell...sort of...I caught myself on my hands partway down. The point of this story is that I'm tired of winter. Saying it just makes me feel better.

You know what else makes me feel better in winter? Vegetarian chili. It's warm and comforting. And quick to make. I made it for dinner one night this week and served it on top of quinoa for added protein.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Me time - the personal gratitude journal (with an ecojot giveaway - CLOSED)

I believe it's a testament to the human spirit that each January we think about how to better ourselves in the fresh new year that stretches out before us. Think of it. How beautiful is that? Undaunted by previous disappointments, we once again seek to add beauty and good health to our lives.

As I have mentioned many times, I'm regularly helped along with my goals by Sarah Ban Breathnach's inspirational book, Simple Abundance, a daily guide to living an abundant life. One of Sarah's strongest recommendations is to create your own personal gratitude journal to record some of life’s blessings each day. I have been keeping (and sometimes forgetting!) this practice for several years. I truly believe that by acknowledging the gifts that life has presented you with, you welcome more blessings into your life.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Insta-Friday in real life

Happy Friday! I hope you have plans for a fun-filled weekend. For me, all that takes is a bit of sushi. Yep, we're getting sushi tonight, and I am happy not to be cooking.

How's the weather where you're at? We have mounds and mounds of snow that apparently will be covered with freezing rain tonight. So we are going to cuddle in and stay warm. The husband and I have been catching up on episodes of Homeland. We just started a week ago and we are done season one already - so addictive! I can't help but love a great show that centres on a female character too.

Lunchbox Carrot Mini Muffins

While I enjoyed Christmas vacation for many reasons, not the least among them was the fact that I didn't have to make school lunches for the kids. It's not so much the act of making the lunches that bothers me, but the struggle to come up with healthy, portable snacks the kids will actually eat. (I know I'm not alone on this one!)

I always think a home-baked goodie is preferable to a store-bought treat whenever possible. And muffins are the ideal snack to pop into a lunchbox, whether it's for you or the kids. To increase the kid appeal, sometimes I like to go with miniature muffins.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Jazzy Vegetarian Classics (Book Review & Giveaway - CLOSED)

Oh how I love a new cookbook! The most recent addition to my collection is Jazzy Vegetarian Classics: Vegan Twists on American Family Favorites, by Laura Theodore. Laura puts a vegan twist on beloved family meals, with recipes such as Spaghetti and "Wheatballs," Twice-Baked Potatoes, Savory Seitan Loaf and many more.

Having been raised on a traditional North American diet, I can relate to these classic foods. Sometimes you just want to slap a burger on a bun, throw some fries on the side and call it a day. You can do that in a healthy, animal-friendly way with Laura's recipes for Mushroom-Nut Burgers and Confetti Oven Fries.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday, snow day edition

Happy Wednesday! I'm calling this the "snow day" edition of What I Ate Wednesday because I am sharing a look at the foods I ate yesterday while the kids were home from school for a "snow day." It wasn't actually even snowing. It was just super cold (like -30°C with the wind chill). Schools were open but buses were cancelled, so my kids wanted to stay home.

It turned out to be good motivation to eat a little bit healthier for the day. Instead of my pb & j with toast breakfast, I put out a fruit platter for us all to munch on.

Getting on track with GoodLife Fitness (Giveaway - CLOSED)

Even if you aren't a fan of resolutions, each new year brings with it the possibility of gently nudging yourself in a more positive direction and contributing more of your energies to your personal wellness. Many people (including me) start the new year thinking about fitness. We all have the best of intentions when it comes to being active and staying fit. But often our busy work and home lives get in the way. 

When I look back at my activities in 2013, I see that I became more and more sedentary as the year progressed. I started each weekday walking Jolene the beagle mix to the local park. Other than that, I sat at my computer for almost the entire day, stopping only to eat.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Blogger Style: Heather

I know that many of us like to start each new year by organizing our homes and maybe even switching up the decor a bit. I hope this new regular feature, Blogger Style, will provide you with some design inspiration.

I am starting the series off with the gorgeous home of Heather, the blogger behind Tatter and Fray. If you are a lover of thrifty treasures, Heather's blog is not to be missed. She has an amazing eye for unusual vintage pieces that fit beautifully into the modern home. I feel like she has a fair bit of luck too, but maybe she just spends a lot of time thrifting?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Time Flies When You're A Parent (and great deals on baby stuff from Sears)

At the start of each new year, I can't help but look back at the previous year and ponder how quickly it seemed to fly by. I think the passage of time is even more clear when you have children. Those first few years in your child's life are but a blip in time - a whirlwind of feedings, diaper changes and exciting milestones. Before you know it, the feeling of your chin resting on that sweet, silky baby head is just a memory (and those little curls on my daughter's head have straightened out!)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

6 vegan muffins to whip up right now

Oh muffins, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

You are tasty, warm, healthy little treats that can be whipped up in a flash, making those miserable, cold mornings so much brighter. I have even been known to pop a batch of homemade muffins into the oven on a busy morning before dropping the kids off at daycare and heading to work. And I'm not an early riser by any means. Just mix the batter together in under 10 minutes and pop them into the oven while you take your shower. Your efforts will be so worth it come break time!

Now that I work from home, I confess I am often tempted away from my desk to make up a fresh batch of muffins for my mid-morning snack or an afternoon pick-me-up. Here are 6 of my favourite easy, vegan muffin recipes. I almost always use light spelt flour for my muffins, but you can certainly substitute other types of flour. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A perfectly peaceful vacation

As Christmas vacation comes to a close, I thought I'd take a look back at two lovely weeks. While the first few days of vacation took place prior to Christmas and so were a whirlwind of cleaning, cooking and other preparations, the time following Christmas was one of the most relaxing periods I have enjoyed in recent years.

There were a lot of late nights watching movies, a fair bit of sleeping in late and a great deal of time spent in pajamas throughout the day.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Top 5 Vegan Recipes of 2013

I took a look-see at my blog stats to determine what were the most visited vegan recipes in 2013. Some of the top 5 recipes were posted before 2013, but they continued to remain popular over the past year. All of them are simple, healthy and delicious. Okay, chocolate dipped peanut butter balls aren't that healthy, but they beat store-bought treats!

Here, starting with the most popular recipe, are my Top 5 Vegan Recipes of 2013:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

In this moment - Welcoming a new year

Open your arms as wide as you can to receive the miracles with your name on them.
-Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance

In this new year of wondrous possibilities, I hope that you will remember this quote as I will, friends. When you face those inevitable moments of fear, self-doubt, grief, anger and inertia, open your arms wide and believe that you deserve more. Be good to yourself.

In this moment, I'm thinking of these gentle plans for a perfectly laid-back New Year's Day:

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